Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How Free-Range Are Your Kids?

I have found my new favorite parenting movement and blog: Free Range Kids.  Basic premise of Free Range Parenting (FRP) is that children need and deserve the freedom and independence to play and do things for themselves.

"Helicopter parenting," which has gotten broad media exposure, so much to the point that now I find articles highlighting the benefits of being in your kid's life/face 24-7, is basically the antithesis of Free Range Parenting.  The appeal to FRP to me lies in the idea of trust: trust in your child, trust in your own abilities to teach your child about right and wrong, safety, etc., and trust in the world (strangers).  I don't want my son to think that around every corner is a "bad person" waiting to kidnap him or hurt him.  I want him to feel confident to make good decisions about what situations and people are safe and comfortable.  Truth is, crimes against children are down (child abuse, neglect, abductions, etc.) and that most crimes against children are perpetrated by someone the child knows (family member, teacher, coach, neighbor, etc.). Don't get me even started about the dreaded and much-hyped "online predators".

I was a Free Range kid.  I grew up on the rural edge between two suburban towns.  My back yard was bordered by cornfields and woods.  There were acres of farmland and woodlands for the neighborhood kids to explore.  It was paradise!!!  At the ages of 8-12 my two best friends (neighbors) and I would wonder all over the general area, playing in the pond out in the fields, lounging in the clover fields until dark, carrying picnics out to the woods, building forts in deep trenches, tracking deer, and so many more "dangerous" and daring adventures.  Our parents couldn't see us, they didn't want to see us!  We were kicked out of the house after breakfast, got called in for lunch, and then were free until dark.  In this neglectful environment we got fresh air, exercise, friendship, independence and hours of fun. 

I want my son to have similar adventures.  Although his adventures will be in a more urban/surburban landscape.  But in some ways his range can be longer, because he can take the bus or trolley to the city or out to another suburban town.  I was at the mercy of where I could walk or where my parents were willing to drive me.  I'm not saying that my son will be riding the bus at the age of 5, but maybe at 8 or 10.  It depends on his maturity and how much responsibility he can handle.  Some kids would get into all kinds of real danger and trouble if given an hour of freedom.  Other kids wouldn't even think of it. 

Just yesterday, my son played in our backyard (tiny backyard) while I cleaned up the kitchen and got ready to make dinner.  I couldn't see him the whole time, but I could hear him digging in the garden.  I checked on him as I went about my business in the kitchen.  It was a great solution to the problem of us wanting to do different things.  Some people will think that leaving a 2 1/2 year old unsupervised for even a minute is crazy.  Other people will wonder what took me so long.

I am all for each parent making her own choices and following her instincts.  But the media and others have a vested interest in making us doubt our own instincts and understanding.  We have to be diligent and thoughtful in our decisions about parenting.  But we don't have to be afraid. 


  1. People get upset with me when I allow my 3 year old to play outside with his 7 year old mate. All the windows are open, the door is open I check on them constantly. Its nice to be able to clean something quickly without having to watch out for children! If a portion of the yard was fenced (My son still isn't to the point of telling me when the ball gets close to the highway we live on) I would probably allow him to play for short times alone.

    I applaud you!

  2. Excellent, in all aspects. I applaud you turning from media hype and listening to your heart. Well done.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.